I am really confused, I do not see Krishna's words as a metaphor that was misinterpreted, when he talks about it in the Bhagavad Gita, it looks very clear and direct to me, not a metaphor pointing to something else. Also Buddha remembered all his past lives, as a monkey or as human... where is the metaphor? What they actually mean then?
I can answer this in a very objective/academic manner, having studied the Gita due to my Indian heritage.
First some background:
Gita is part of the Hindu epic "Mahabharata" which was written by Ved Vyasa (an honorific title he earned by dividing the Vedas -- which were just one earlier). Ved Vyasa's original name was Krishna Dwaipayana
(the word Krishna means "Dark" and Ved Vyasa was dark of color). I claim the Gita was composed/designed/engineered to deliver an everlasting message, and there was no real Lord Krishna in the form that is suggested by many believers.
Arjun and Krishna: Nar (word for human/man) and Narayan (word for God/Vishnu)
- 1. The placement of the Gita: and its subject of a war within a man's heart, just before the man is about to fight the war of his life (The Mahabharata war),
2. The Mahabharata's reoccurring theme of "disqualification of the eldest": from the beginning to the end, this is the case
3. A small discrepancy between Mahabharata and Vishnu Purana (which was also composed by Ved Vyasa): when Lord Krishna apparently broke his vow to never lift a weapon, is described differently in both epics. With deeper investigation, you'll realize this discrepancy is actually a major chink in the armor of anyone who believes the epics were narrated accurately generation after generation
: The Gita is designed as a play in which Arjuna is attempting to win the battle in his heart and Lord Krishna is actually his soul speaking to him. The book is designed in a way to instil faith in the heart of the reader, the same way cows are designated holy to protect them in India (because the Indian cow is more useful alive than dead, read the book: Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches
for more on this). Gita is actually a condensed summary of Vedas (smriti: knowledge gained from experience) and Upanishads (shruti: knowledge gained through divine intervention). If you read the Gita from the point of view of a man questioning his soul, you'll see that it explains everything. Lord Krishna, if Arjuna's soul, is indeed God as consistent with the Hindu philosophy (Who is Brahma? That is me.
The soul manifested itself as what it really is, The Vishwarupa.
Ved Vyasa's signature on Gita:
In Gita Chapter 10, verse 37, "Lord Krishna" says the following:
I am Krishna among my mighty kinsmen;
I am Arjuna among the Pandava princes;
I am the epic poet Vyasa among sages,
the inspired singer among bards.
Therefore, I claim the Gita is not about a divine God educating mankind on what is the right way to live, but simply Ved Vyasa's effort to simplify the Vedic knowledge of Consciousness and Yoga in a form that is going to be easy to understand, and he made sure the placement of the book (along with vivid description of Lord Krishna as an incarnation of God) within the Mahabharata will make sure the knowledge is not lost easily.
Now to answer your question, read chapter 2, verse 16. It says:
Nothing of nonbeing comes to be,
nor does being cease to exist;
the boundary between these two
is seen by men who see reality.
I personally take this as explanation of what it means to "reincarnate". We exist, because we existed in another form elsewhere at another time, and for the same reason, we will continue to exist. The world is just a projection of laws of nature/forces of nature/God:
Chapter 2, verse 6:
Just as the wide-moving wind
is constantly present in space,
so all creatures exist in me;
understand it to be so!
Hope some of this helps. I can go on and on, but its tough to compose a half intelligent and coherent reply in just a few minutes!